This month we speak to John Devine, General Manager, Assets and Infrastructure at the City of Unley.
John Share with us his background, his "return" to Local Government and why "Ad-Hocary" is one of his favorite sayings!
Hi John, thanks for talking with us.
What’s your current role at Unley, and what does it involve?
General Manager, Assets & Infrastructure
Key Responsibilities include:
Depot related services – maintenance & renewal of open space & infrastructure; street sweeping; fleet management & workshop
Asset Management for all assets
Property portfolio management, renewal & maintenance
Waste management & related services
Sustainable landscapes, design & delivery - includes streetscape renewal, arboricultural services
Where were you before and what attracted you to the role (and back to Local Government?)
For most of the last decade I have been in consulting, specialising in change management, process redesign, organisational reviews & improvement, and asset management.
During this time I have worked in UK, Asia, South Africa, New Zealand and across Australia with a range of clients. I worked with a large number of Local Governments during this time & believe it is can be an interesting, diverse and dynamic place to work.
Having got tired of continually travelling I decided that working in Adelaide with a progressive medium to large Council going through major change would be an exciting opportunity.
In your opinion, how have things changed in local government since you last held a position in a council?
The expectations of local government continue to increase from our stakeholders, particularly other tiers of government and our residents. There are also a growing number of legislative hurdles and requirements which must be complied with.
Internally staff are still looking for strong, ethical leadership, but a new generation of employees come to work with a somewhat different mindset and attitude to their predecessors.
The level of innovation and cooperation within and across Councils also appears to have increased, albeit that Local Government always tended to be a leader across governments in these areas
What is the most satisfying thing about your Unley role?
Its early days yet, but I would say joining a Council with a completely new Executive team and many new senior managers and being a part of these as they mould into a strong leadership group with a united focus has been very satisfying
What’s the longer term plan – where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Unley is a great place to work. The Council, senior staff and residents all want and expect Unley to “punch above our weight”.
We have an exciting and challenging forward agenda, & I am particularly keen to see and assist our next generation of leaders grow and mature.
What advice would you have for someone seeking a career in Local Government?
Do it. Local Government has a great diversity in jobs, styles and opportunities. Don’t be worried about moving round to different Councils as this will help grow your knowledge and capabilities.
Seek out a mentor who can help provide you some guidance and advice. Ask lots of questions & continue to learn.
What’s your most embarrassing Local Government (or consulting) moment?
We were conducting a major marketing/ promotional evening with potential local gov’t clients in New Zealand & I was presenting our capability in some key areas. All was going well until my summary when instead of the punch line being the name of our company as the consulting firm with all this expertise who could help, I announced the name of a major competitor – who I used to belong to.
The partners of the firm, while being able to make light of this, never let me live it down.
We know you’ve only been there a relatively short time – but are you already known as having a favourite “saying” or term? What is it?
Ad-hocary – relating to the fact that we seem to have very little over arching principles, guidelines, frameworks, or operational process to assist in defining scope of work or approach.
Consequently each project or task tends to be unique and it can be difficult to defend the preferred option with residents. In other words we take an ad-hoc approach to our work
How do you spend your leisure time outside of Local Government?
I mostly enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially with a good wine & great music.
Sport has always been a passion, particularly the “real football” & now that I’m too old to play I enjoy cycling.